For 100s of years, Britains have been munching on this perfect, salty, vinegar-coated pairing. Now, fish and chips are a worldwide comfort food spread across cultures and even a favorite here in the US. But, the famous battered and fried fish dish many of us assume comes from Britain most likely can be attributed to Spanish and Portuguese refugees brought to the UK during the 16th century.
At that time, many Jewish people faced religious persecution across Portugal and Spain. Many resettled within the UK, bringing their culinary delicacies with them, one of the most likely being a white fish, fried with a thin coat of flour called 'Pescado Frito,' a favorite of Sephardic Jews. This dish was made on Fridays to prepare for the Sabbath, where the batter was to preserve the fish so it could be eaten cold the following day.
While the first potato made its appearance in Europe roughly around 1570, scholars are still debating whether it was the French or the Belgians who decided to fry potatoes to create the iconic French fry.
This historical and legendary dish is still a favorite for many today. Yet one of the unique challenges of this dish to cook at home is making the perfect fish batter for a fish fry. If you've ever struggled with battering your fish for the perfect golden, crispy fish fry, we're here to help! Let's get into it!
Start With The Fish
Getting the authentic fish and chips experience at home with the proper batter calls for the right kind of fish. The fish itself is the base or foundation of this dish and is surprisingly just as crucial as the batter. So, which fish is the best choice for a fish and chip dinner?
Cod is one of the top choices for fried and battered fish due to its mild flavor and extremely flakey, tender meat yet keeps its firm texture. It's not a highly fishy tasting fish either, meaning it's perfect for picky kids too.
Haddock is a fish that you'll find most chefs prefer when making fish and chips. The texture of haddock is not as flaky or tender as cod, but the flesh has a hint of sweetness that pairs seamlessly with the buttery, salty flavor of a good batter.
Ensure the Fish is Crispy, No Matter The Batter
Before you choose to batter your fish, there are some steps to ensure your fish is crispy fried no matter what batter is used. Some recipes forget to mention these, so if you don't know—this will help you.
- Ensure your fish is as dry as possible, whether fresh or thawed from frozen. You can use paper towels to blot away moisture, or you can leave the fish on an uncovered plate in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. It is imperative to uncover, thaw, or unwrap a piece of fish that stays chilled to prevent bacteria. It is perfectly safe to leave fish uncovered in the fridge to dry out before cooking. Just don't forget!
- Generously season with salt and pepper before dipping fish into batter.
- If your oil is not hot enough, you'll most likely end up with a soggy coating saturated with oil. Too hot, and you'll have burnt batter on the outside and possibly raw fish on the inside. If you don't have a fryer that keeps track of temps, a cooking or candy thermometer is a great tool to invest in. The optimal temp for frying fish is a constant 375 degrees F.
- Don't crowd! Too many pieces of fish in the fryer rapidly drop the temperature, leading to soggy fish. Start with one or two pieces to give them ample time to fry and achieve that perfect golden crust.
- Use a cooling rack to keep the fish crispy. Setting the fish on paper towels or newspapers to drain can cause steam to form between the fish and coating, taking your crispy batter into a wet one.
If you're not a beer drinker and have been avoiding beer batter, worried about it being overpowering, this might be your sign to try it! Many who are not beer drinkers and never have it in their fridge will purchase at least one to create one of the lightest and airy textured batters for fish out there. Beer batter makes a thin yet crunchy coating that doesn't taste like beer, and, as the batter is cooking, there's no need to worry about alcohol consumption as it cooks off.
- 2 lbs white fish, cod, or haddock
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp seasoned salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 and 1/3 cup of beer
- Canola oil for frying
- Place fish fillets on a plate and dry for 30 minutes to 1 hour uncovered in the fridge.
- Add oil to a large heavy-bottomed pot or your deep fryer until it's roughly 2 to 3 inches deep, then heal to 375 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, if fish fillets are large, cut them to your preferred sizes to fit into the pot or deep fryer. Pat gently with a paper towel to ensure any leftover moisture is removed, and season with salt and pepper.
- Make the beer batter by whisking flour, garlic powder, paprika, and seasoned salt. Stir in lightly beaten egg, then gradually whisk in the beer until the batter forms and there are no lumps.
- Quickly dip the fish one piece at a time into the batter, then place immediately into the hot oil. Cook 3-4 minutes or until the fish batter is a deep golden brown. Drain on a wire rack and enjoy!
If you'd rather skip the beer entirely, here is a super simple batter to use instead.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Whisk flour, milk, water, baking powder, and salt in a bowl until smooth. Follow steps 1 to 5 from above.
We hope you enjoy making the perfect fish batter at home with your Wholey's cod or haddock for delicious fish and chips you won't forget!